Recently, I was asked to provide “fundamental leadership training” for our leadership teams across the country. My mind immediately went into overdrive on how best to encompass all of the experiences I have had and those I continue to develop in my own personal journey.
Leadership is a journey filled with ever-changing obstacles. We know that being inspirational, having strategic focus, and effectively collaborating are crucial skills. Having intersectional goals that support an organization’s mission, and having the confidence, drive, and know-how to push back,and demand better results are all attributes of an effective leader. We also know that we are human, we have emotions and behaviours that change with time and maturity, and different lived experiences, traumas and environments that influence who we are and the way we choose to lead.
As Ross Pero said, “Lead and inspire people. Don’t try to manage and manipulate people. Inventories can be managed but people must be led.” What we must learn as leaders is the fine art of self realization, change management and adapting to change.
I recall when I was asked to be part of a personality index program that taught me how to be a leadership coach. In order for this to be relevant, we had to complete a self evaluation and have our reporting leaders, co-workers,and direct reports perform the same analysis. The results in some cases were spot on, while others were to the point of causing some hurt. This was a pivotal point for me in my career as it allowed me to truly reflect on who I was and wanted to be as a leader. Being humble and understanding that while we may see ourselves as highly supportive leaders, our teams may see something entirely different. Asking your team for their feedback will be the first course of action that shows your human. After all, as Max DePree put it, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”
“In this ever-changing world of obstacles and challenges, comes with it a new level of understanding. The market will change, the applicants will change, and our ability to be agile as leaders must also change to reflect the environment”
Over the years, I have had the great fortune of working with the most astounding and influential leaders, and also those from whom I learned how “not to be”. We are all aware of the different styles of leadership - whether it is democratic, autocratic, charismatic or servant leadership, there are many labelsto choose from. However, the most important aspect is understanding what your leadership style is versus how it is perceived and where you would like to be. Leadership style may also change dependant on the organization and its maturity, the mission, and the team itself. Leadership is a journey, not an annual membership that is up for automatic renewal.
Lastly, let us talk about empathy. In this ever-changing world of obstacles and challenges, comes with it a new level of understanding. The market will change, the applicants will change, and our ability to be agile as leaders must also change to reflect the environment. Empathy and understanding for your team while still having the ability to direct, motivate and obtain or even demand results is possible. As a leader once brought to my attention, the environment will not change for us, we must change for the environment. Due to the pandemic, we have seen alternate working alternatives, the importance of work life balance and emotional well being on the forefront of applicants’ minds. Understanding alternative and unique ways to embrace your teams will continue to be paramount.
I completed the first segment of the training session that I referred to at the beginning of this article. Interestingly enough, we spent most of our time in that discussion on what leadership styles we do not want to emulate and how best to change them moving forward. A lesson always learned is that leadership is not a race - it is an ever-changing journey.